|CAFTA Is a Bad Deal for the United States|
|Those who believe in American sovereignty and/or our unique principle of federalism are waking up to the damage that CAFTA will do to both. Its fate in Congress is uncertain and bipartisan opposition is growing.
The United States signed CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement) in May 2004 with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. On August 5, 2004, it was expanded to include the Dominican Republic (sometimes called DR-CAFTA).
U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick sent a letter to the governors of 50 states in September 2003 asking them to “sign on” to the government purchasing regulations contained in all the trade agreements he was then negotiating. More than half replied with a letter of consent. When the draft text of CAFTA was first made available on January 28, 2004, these states discovered they were bound by the 2,400-page agreement and were specifically listed in Chapter 9. A third have since rescinded their support of CAFTA.
The governors are hearing from their state legislators who are beginning to understand how these foreign-trade agreements usurp the states’ constitutional and legislative powers. These agreements take away state legislative authority over regulating utilities, controlling land use, and the granting of taxpayer-funded contracts.
CAFTA includes hundreds of pages of grants of vague authority to foreign tribunals. It wouldn’t take a very activist foreign judge to read his own interpretation into language that requires us to use the “least trade-restrictive” regulations and to change our laws so they are “no more burdensome than necessary.”
Meanwhile, states are feeling the heat from their constituents who discovered that some state agencies were paying out taxpayers’ money to corporations that outsource their labor, particularly programmers, engineers and call-center workers. Anti-outsourcing bills have been introduced in 35 states.
It is clear that CAFTA would prevent any state that has “signed on” from giving preference to in-state contractors or prohibiting tax dollars from going to contractors who outsource jobs. Any Central American country could file a complaint.
If President Bush is successful in starting private accounts in Social Security, WTO rules would require us to let foreign money managers and insurers bid to manage our retirement.
It’s not as though we weren’t warned. In line with the ancient axiom that coming events cast their shadows before them, the shadows of CAFTA’s harm have been visible for years from the anti-American decisions of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the 1995 World Trade Organization (WTO).
On February 6, 2001, a NAFTA international tribunal ordered the U.S. to open all U.S. roads to Mexican trucks. The ruling repeatedly referred to NAFTA as a “treaty,” although NAFTA was never submitted to the U.S. Senate as a treaty, but instead was rushed through Congress by a simple majority vote. Congress passed the WTO using the same treaty-ducking shenanigan.
Former Congressman (D-IL) and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Abner Mikva, who served on a NAFTA panel in 1998, said, “If Congress had any idea what they were voting on back then, they never would have passed NAFTA.”
Last fall, a World Trade Organization tribunal outlawed Utah’s ban on gambling, opening the door to millions of dollars in penalties against all states with anti-gambling regulations. Antigua and Barbuda had charged that Utah’s ban on gambling violates America’s obligation not to discriminate against foreigners providing “recreational services.”
The Geneva-based WTO’s tribunals have ruled against the United States in 24 cases. Some of those decisions were very costly to the U.S. economy.
The pro-CAFTA lobby tells us to relax and enjoy it because CAFTA is part of inevitable globalization. But trade agreements are not handed down from on high, and they are not free-market actions; they are man-made rules created by politicians and lobbyists to serve the interests of the corporations that pay the lobbying costs.
The pro-CAFTA lobby’s promise of big trade with the CAFTA countries is a pipe dream. How can anyone expect many customers for U.S. products from countries where half the people live below the poverty line?
El Salvador’s principal exports to the United States are its vicious MS-13 and other street gangs. Hundreds of these young criminals have brought an unprecedented level of murder, violence, mutilation, and brutality to cities all over our country. Nothing in CAFTA will stop this influx of illegal aliens from Central America.
The real purpose of CAFTA is to allow multinational corporations to exploit the abundance of cheap labor and the scarcity of taxes and safety regulations in CAFTA countries. The combined GDP of all six CAFTA countries is only about the same GDP as that of New Haven, Connecticut. Trade with CAFTA countries will consist of round-trip trade: products shipped there for assembly at low-wage plants and then back to the U.S. for sale in the U.S. in competition with companies that try to keep jobs for Americans.
As Bill Clinton did with NAFTA in 1993 and WTO in 1994, the Bush Administration pretends that CAFTA and FTAA are not treaties requiring ratification by the Senate. Instead, the Administration will submit legislation to implement CAFTA (and later FTAA) under the “fast-track” procedures of Trade Promotion Authority, which President Bush signed in 2002 after the House passed TPA by one vote in December 2001.
TPA allows only 60 days for Congress to approve or disapprove the CAFTA legislation: 45 days in which House and Senate Committees may hold a non-binding “non-markup” session (to air concerns but make no changes), followed by a final floor vote in each House 15 days later. There is no conference committee (because both Houses must pass the identical bill) and, of course, no Senate filibuster is permitted.
Congress should defeat CAFTA and reassert the primacy of our Constitution, which states that only Congress has the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations” and that treaties are valid only if ratified by two-thirds of Senators.
Read our alert: JUST SAY NO TO CAFTA Tell Your Members of Congress to vote NO on CAFTA!
“Eventually our long-range objective is to establish with the United States, but also with Canada, our other regional partner, an ensemble of connections and institutions similar to those created by the European Union, with the goal of attending to future themes [such as] the future prosperity of North America, and the movement of capital, goods, services, and persons.”
NAFTA came first, under which a foreign tribunal was able to override U.S. laws and give Mexican trucks access to all our highways. The next step is CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement), the plan to integrate our prosperous economy with the poverty of Central America.
Then will come FTAA (Free Trade Agreement of the Americas) which, according to the Quebec Declaration signed by President Bush in 2001, will bring about economic and political “hemispheric integration.”
So, let’s take a closer look at the EU. It was not birthed democratically. It was formed by the elites of the several nations without the informed consent of the people, and its entire structure is institutionally undemocratic. The citizens of most countries never had a chance to vote.
When the people were allowed to vote in France and the Netherlands, the new EU Constitution was soundly rejected, but they are still stuck with the European Union superstructure which the politicians already imposed on them.
The politicians and bureaucrats who dream of world government, or at least continental government, to be run by a commission of technocrats who think they are wiser than ordinary people, started with the Common Market and then morphed it into the European Union (EU), which is run by the bureaucrats whom Margaret Thatcher labeled the paper-pushers in Brussels, Belgium. The sovereignty and self-government of nation-states were bypassed in a series of very undemocratic, deceptive maneuvers.
The EU Council of Ministers in Brussels now has effective control of all areas of commerce, industry, social and labor policy, the environment, agriculture, fish, and foreign trade. The EU nations are expected to obey the Brussels bureaucrats or face unlimited fines imposed by the Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which is not a court of law as we understand it. It is an agency of EU bureaucrats who are free to indulge in imaginative judicial activism to implement “the ever closer union of the peoples of Europe.”
The EU makes laws in the labyrinths of the unelected bureaucracy. The Commission has the monopoly to propose all new laws which are then negotiated in secret by the shadowy Committee of Permanent Representatives, and the Council of Ministers makes the final decisions by secret vote. The parliaments of the member states are excluded from the process except to rubber-stamp EU decisions after they are made, and national parliaments are not allowed to know how their country’s representatives voted in Brussels.
Ask yourself: wouldn’t you think we had lost our right of self-government if Congress took its votes in secret and we couldn’t find out how our representatives voted?
The EU is a top-down enforced togetherness of different nationalities, with different cultures and languages, many of whom don’t like each other. That’s a prescription for conflict, not peace. The European nations’ loss of sovereignty to the EU should be a warning. We cannot let NAFTA-CAFTA-FTAA take us down the road of Western Hemisphere economic-political integration in the European model. Americans who want to retain American sovereignty should speak up now.
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